BJP expects more gains than loss from citizenship Act

BJP expects more gains than loss from citizenship Act

Major protests in Assam and some other parts of the northeast against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act have taken many in the BJP by surprise but they believe that the gains for the party will be more than any loss from implementing the contentious law.

With the BJP in power in Assam and the rest of the northeast, either on its own or as a junior partner to a regional ally, party leaders are of the view that they are in a position to contain the situation but remain wary of its political fallout, especially in Assam.

A Hindu consolidation in the state long hit by illegal immigration from Bangladesh had propelled the party to power for the first time in 2016.

The ongoing protests fuelled by identity concerns of ethnic Assamese has the potential to change the existing political equation.

However, it is upbeat about its prospects in West Bengal, where the intended beneficiaries of the new law live in large numbers.

BJP's state chief Dilip Ghosh claimed that their numbers could be nearly two crores and accused West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is also the Trinamool Congress president, of stoking unrest in the state against the bill as she "fears" losing power.

Both West Bengal and Assam will go to the assembly polls in April-May of 2021 along with Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Puducherry.

According to the new Act, people from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come to India till December 31, 2014, from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan owing to their religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants and will be given Indian citizenship.

Dubbed by the BJP as refugees unlike the Muslim immigrants who have been painted as "termites" by the party, they live mostly in either Assam or West Bengal.

A senior Assam BJP leader said the recent protests in the state have been triggered by people's decades-long anxiety over being swamped by "outsiders".

"There are some valid concerns. But this is the best law our state could have got," he said, expressing hope the current crisis will blow over.

He added that unlike two other parties, the Congress and the AGP, which have ruled the state in the past and "failed" to fulfill their promise of implementing Assam accord to expel illegal immigrants, the BJP has been working to implement its promise.

The citizenship law as well a National Register of Citizens were part of the party's manifesto, he noted.

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